Posts Tagged ‘BYU to the Big East’

You just knew that one of either Tony Romo or Jay Cutler was going to have a sub-zero passer rating game on Monday night, right?  It was preordained with a prime time game featuring the two erratic quarterbacks.  Fortunately for the Bears, Bad Romo showed up that even more gloriously led to a nostalgic appearance by the Neckbeard.  Let’s get onto some other news:

(1) Beastly Big East Expansion – I didn’t get to write about this at all last week, but the Big East reportedly has been looking at BYU and Air Force for its 14th football member (and might even add those 2 plus Army to have a 16-team football league).  If the Big East can pull off that trifecta, that’s effectively the best that the conference could realistically do considering the circumstances.  However, I continue to have doubts about the viability of a BYU candidacy for the Big East because of that school’s very different leadership structure and goals compared to any other FBS school.  Indeed, Brett McMurphy, in his report linked above, said, “BYU was close to joining the Big East last November, until the deal blew up essentially at the last minute when the Cougars refused to relinquish their home television rights.”  That’s such a basic fundamental issue that I find it difficult to believe that it could have possibly only been brought up at the last minute unless a group far above the athletic director’s pay grade (AKA the actual leadership of the LDS Church) purposefully lobbed in a grenade to tank the negotiations.  My understanding from BYU people has always been that TV exposure trumps TV money by a wide margin to LDS leadership, which means that they aren’t going to be persuaded by merely a larger check from a share of Big East TV rights versus the guaranteed widespread exposure that the school receives now in its ESPN contract.  Plus, BYU has effectively stated previously that Comcast’s dealings with the Mountain West were the biggest reason why the school turned independent in the first place, so it will be an extremely tough sell for the Big East to pitch the value of any potential NBC/Comcast deal to the Cougars no matter how much it might pay.  The Big East’s largest selling point to BYU would be that the access to the new 7th top tier bowl discussed here last week may only be open to the champions of the “Gang of Five” conferences (the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and MAC), which means that the school’s ability to make it into the new BCS (or whatever it will be called) system will solely be via a handful of access bowl slots determined by a selection committee.  Essentially, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has to convince the LDS Church (NOT the BYU athletic department, which seems to be much more open to conference membership) that the exposure gained from having access to this new 7th bowl trumps the week-to-week exposure that the school is receiving from its current TV deals.  I think the chances of BYU joining the Big East are better than they were two weeks ago, but still nowhere near a foregone conclusion.  Hence, the hedging comment in the McMurphy piece that the Big East is “divided over whether to pursue Air Force or BYU.”  It’s very clear that BYU is the superior option, but the Big East needs to make it look like that it chose Air Force (instead of getting rejected by BYU) if it ends up adding the Falcons.  (“You didn’t reject us!  We rejected you!”)

As you can see, I believe that Air Force is a much more realistic addition to the Big East compared to BYU.  Things have changed greatly for Air Force since it rejected the Big East’s overtures 1 year ago, particularly the fact that the Big East decided to raid Air Force’s home of the Mountain West of Boise State and San Diego State.  Navy has also committed to join the Big East for football since that time, so that gives the Air Force a service academy rival to potentially enter the league with.  In contrast, nothing has really changed for BYU other than potentially the bowl situation.  As a result, if I were a betting man, Air Force is going to end up as Big East football school #14.

On another note, Big East Coast Bias points out that the new Atlantic 10 TV contract shows why the Catholic members of the Big East aren’t going to be splitting off to create a CYO basketball league.  In this era of skyrocketing sports rights contracts, the Atlantic 10 is going to be receiving $40 million over the course of 8 years.  That translates into $5 million per year to be split among 14 members, which amounts to an average of a little more than $350,000 per year per school.  This has to be a scary figure for the schools that solely depend upon basketball revenue.  Granted, I believe that a CYO basketball league made up of the current Big East Catholic schools plus a handful of others (e.g. St. Louis University, Xavier, Dayton) would command a better TV contract than what the Atlantic 10 is receiving, but this new deal effectively ensures that those Big East members won’t even take the chance of a split.  As I noted last year, splitting up the Big East would be as misguided as the maligned and eventually overturned decision to split up Netflix and this is more evidence of that being the case.

(2) DePaul Arena Dreaming – Speaking of the Big East and on a more personal note, the notion of DePaul basketball returning to the Chicago city limits is finally gaining steam.  DePaul is looking at either moving home games to the United Center or partnering with the city and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to build a new arena near McCormick Place.  I have been arguing that DePaul basketball ought to move to the United Center at a minimum ever since I started this blog (see this post about DePaul’s very first Big East game, which happened to be against Notre Dame, complete with an outdated reference to the now-defunct Demon Dogs), so it’s been a long time coming.  Personally, I like the McCormick Place proposal even more since the funding appears to be available, Rahm seems to want to get it done (meaning that it’s much more than a pipe dream) and it would be an arena whose primary tenant is DePaul (compared to the United Center, where the order of precedence is (1) Ringling Bros. Circus, (2) Disney on Ice, (3) Bulls, (4) Blackhawks and (5) everything else).  A new CTA Green Line Station at Cermak Road to serve McCormick Place is being built, which means that even though the arena isn’t necessarily close to Lincoln Park, it would be easily accessible by public transportation for students on the North Side and even easier for people based at DePaul’s expanding South Loop campus.  There is also plenty of parking structures already in place for people that want to drive.  It’s not as desirable as having a Lincoln Park location, but considering the practical issues of cost and transportation, this is the most viable option for a DePaul arena within the city limits that we have ever seen.

Also, I can see Rahm’s reasoning for pushing this plan from an urban planning perspective.  As someone that lived in Chinatown for a time (which is one mile directly west of McCormick Place straight down Cermak Road), there’s definitely a major gap in commercial development (or at least conventioneer/tourist-friendly commercial development) in the blocks between the Chinatown Red Line station and the convention center complex.  Considering that McCormick Place is arguably the largest single draw for business visitors to Chicago (who have expense accounts to spend), there is decidedly very little in the way of restaurants and bars in that area.  A new arena can be a catalyst for more development in a spot that definitely needs it along with connecting the McCormick Place area to the more developed Chinatown to the west and the rest of the South Loop that is already gentrified to the north.  Granted, there have been plenty of DePaul arena options that have fallen through over the years, so we’ll proceed with cautious optimism here.

(3) BlogPoll Ballot

My main disagreements with the overall poll is that I believe that LSU, Notre Dame (out of all teams) and Northwestern are underrated, while the winner of the Georgia-South Carolina game this weekend is going to end up overrated.  Also, I will continue to bring the love for Louisiana Tech as long as they keep winning.  That’s a legit BCS buster.

(4) College Football Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)

WISCONSIN (-14) over Illinois – I’m counting down the days to basketball season at this point.  It’s getting ugly for the Illini.

Miami (+14) over Notre Dame (game at Soldier Field in Chicago) – Despite my belief that Notre Dame is actually underrated in the polls at this point, I don’t think that I’ve agreed with a single Vegas line for the Irish all year.  Miami isn’t nearly the pushover that it looked like they could have been after getting waxed by Kansas State.

Georgia (+1) over SOUTH CAROLINA – I think both of these teams are a bit overrated from the glow of the top of the SEC, but I have more faith in Georgia this year.

(5) NFL Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)

RAMS (+2.5) over Cardinals – Arizona is worse than their record and, as I said last week, St. Louis is better than their record.

REDSKINS (+3) over Falcons – I don’t quite know what to make of the Redskins so far this season, but RGIII certainly makes them interesting.

JAGUARS (+5) over Bears – The Bears should be winning this game, but this is the type of matchup that always puts us fans on edge.  We were at least able to count on Bad Romo rearing his head this past Monday night.

(6) Classic Music Video of the Week – “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake

If the Mo Money Mo Problems video was a late-1990s time capsule, then this classic from Whitesnake is everything that a late-1980s trash rock video should feature: lots of hair, lots of guitars, and lots of a pre-husband abuse/Celebrity Rehab Tawny Kitaen.  Of course, this song is also a favorite of my namesake Frank the Tank.

Enjoy the games!

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

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After almost two months of a public kabuki dance marked by Board of Regents meetings, authorizations authorizing prior authorizations and accidental web postings of press releases, Missouri has finally been officially invited to be the third group of Tigers in the SEC.  Most people that have followed college conference changes closely over the past year (like most of the readers here) understand that it was pretty much a no-brainer move for Missouri.  When I first started writing about conference realignment in connection with Big Ten expansion, I urged people to “Think like a university president and not like a sports fan.”  In many ways, Missouri moving to the SEC is the ultimate example of this way of thinking (and why, as Andy Staples aptly points out in SI.com, a lot of fans not attuned to the business issues at hand have a hard time understanding it).  Missouri is giving up several rivalries that have lasted over 100 years (including its most important one with Kansas), a Midwestern culture that most of the state’s population is a part of (even if certain parts such as Branson, AKA “Vegas for people without teeth”, might be more southern in nature) and Texas recruiting grounds all the while joining a meat grinder of a football conference.  To many sports fans, this is insanity for Missouri to leave for the SEC.  To university presidents that are looking for financial stability over everything else, though, the only insane choice would’ve been for Missouri to stay in the Big 12.  It comes down to this: if you had to wager your life savings on whether the SEC or the Big 12 would be around in 10 years, which would you choose?  Seeing how many times the Big 12 was placed on its deathbed over the last 18 months, it’s pretty simple to see that Missouri had to take a lifeline to head south.

In tandem with the Missouri news, West Virginia and the Big East are slapping each other with lawsuits with respect to the Mountaineers’ move to take the Tigers’ place in the Big 12.  The core issue is the 27-month notice period that the Big East requires for schools that leave the conference.  Now, as a lawyer that has the Lt. Kaffee “So this is what a courtroom looks like?” approach to litigation, I see the word “buyout” whenever I come across any long notice period in a contract.  In practicality, most parties that intend to end a business relationship want to get it over with ASAP.  At the same time, the law generally favors the payment of monetary damages as compensation for a breach of contract instead of specific performance.  Putting aside the fact that West Virginia’s lawsuit against the Big East looks like it was written in crayon (this complaint is really about WVU trying to avoid having to pay any monetary damages at all, which won’t fly), there’s absolutely no freaking way that the school will be forced to stay for that entire 27-month period (which prevent a move to the Big 12 until the 2014 season).  The Big East has to take a hardline posture on the notice period publicly in order to preserve its leverage against West Virginia (and, for that matter, its defectors to the ACC of Syracuse and Pittsburgh), but this is exactly the type of situation that calls for a financial settlement instead of specific performance.  I could see the three Big East defectors staying for the 2012 season if the conference isn’t able to add its own expansion targets prior to that time (in which case, specific performance is necessary as a result of the Big East not having enough members to exist as a football league in 2012 if those defectors left at that time).  However, with the expectation being that the “new Big East” would be in place in 2013, there’s little reason why West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt would need to stay beyond that point provided that they pay monetary damages.  (Note that while Syracuse and Pitt seem to be publicly quiet on the notice period issue, no one should take that to mean that they accept it.  Rest assured, they’re trying to get out of the Big East with the same amount of urgency as West Virginia.)

Speaking of the Big East expansion targets, my football-only Big Country Conference dream has taken another step forward with the Idaho State Board of Education approving Boise State taking steps to join the Big East (although that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re joining as of yet).  Boise State president Bob Kustra (who was actually Lt. Governor of Illinois under the Jim Edgar administration in the 1990s) actually had to be very forthright with the Board regarding the possible domino effect of the school’s potential move as it could very well impact the University of Idaho’s home of the WAC (which the Board also oversees).  He noted that WAC members Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State could head to Conference USA while Utah State and San Jose State may end up in the Mountain West.  That would mean that Idaho would be left behind with only newly admitted members Texas State and Texas-San Antonio.  With all of the political issues with separating and/or joining schools in other states (i.e. Texas politicians forcing Baylor and Texas Tech into the Big 12, the Virginia legislature forcing UVA to get Virginia Tech into the ACC, the binding of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, etc.), it’s interesting to see that the Idaho State Board of Education is willing to send the Vandals’ entire athletic department to the intensive care unit so that Boise State can get an AQ conference football-only invite.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, I actually like the Big East’s intended expansion (adding Boise State, Navy and Air Force as football-only members and Houston, SMU and Central Florida as all-sports members) as a form of AQ status triage.  If the Big East could get BYU to join as a football-only member, it would be an absolute coup.  However, one major impediment (outside of BYU catching Notre Dame-itis in its view of its self-importance as an independent) is the widely rumored belief that Comcast/NBC may go after the Big East’s TV rights next year.  (From everything that I’ve seen, this rumor is completely blog and message board speculation without any backup, so we must assume that it’s true!)  Seeing that the entire reason why BYU left the Mountain West for independence was to get away from Comcast, I have a hard time seeing BYU joining the Big East if a Comcast deal is on the horizon.  In turn, I also can’t see the Big East foreclosing any future media rights opportunities simply to add BYU.  As with the Big 12, BYU’s TV rights situation is going to be the real issue with the school being an expansion target for the Big East as opposed to the red herring of Sunday play (which wouldn’t even apply in the case of a football-only invite).

Finally, we’ve gotten to the point in conference realignment where I hear “San Diego State is a Big East candidate” and don’t even flinch.  Frankly, I like the Aztecs as much as any non-BYU western candidate for the Big East.  The Big Country Conference is destined to be born.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from In 10 Words)